Lawmakers Will Consider Solutions to State’s Health Care Crisis Next Legislative Session
The San Francisco Chronicle today examines possible solutions to the state's health care crisis, which the paper says could become a "true emergency" because of the "lack of medical insurance for California's working poor." State legislators are expected to offer proposals such as implementing a single-payer health care system, charging "business owners who don't offer health insurance" a tax and imposing a surcharge on HMO members to help subsidize care for the uninsured. The most "far reaching" option is implementing a single-payer health system, under which California would provide every state resident with health coverage "from cradle to grave," and Medi-Cal, HMOs and other private insurance plans would be eliminated. Under such a proposal, the state would collect "a series of taxes" to fund the system, the Chronicle reports. Sen. Sheila Kuehl (D-Santa Monica), who supports such a plan, said, "I really want to aim for an efficient system that would be able to provide richer benefits than we have now." But Gov. Gray Davis (D) is likely to be "cautious about any radical change," the Chronicle reports, making "more moderate ideas" more likely to see action. For example, Sen. Jackie Speier (D-Hillsborough) is planning to reintroduce a "pay-or-play" plan under which all state businesses would be required to either offer health coverage to their workers or to pay a tax to cover indigent care. "It's not a tremendous disruption and it's something everyone is familiar with," Dr. Michael Ashcraft, a health care expert on Speier's team, said. Assembly member Keith Richman (R-Granada Hills) suggested that the state could spend federal health care funds "more smartly," according to the Chronicle. The Chronicle points out that the state had to give back to the federal government $700 million in unspent Healthy Families funds (Salladay, San Francisco Chronicle, 11/25).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.